Whose national dialogue is it?

When I learnt of what they resolved from their one day Youth Round Table Dialogue that had the theme: “Our Stake, Our Representation and the National Conference,” I hurriedly checked to know if the percentage of the population of Nigerian youths had deflated overnight. But to my dismay, it was still in excess of 70 percent. This left me wondering why they came out with a communique that suggests the population of youths in Nigeria had dwindled.

It was reported last Friday that some Nigerian youths under the aegis of Coalition of Youth Organisations for National Conference, COYONAC, had a conference where they unanimously agreed to demand 30 percent of the country's political representation in the forthcoming national dialogue. They held that if the women folk could be demanding 35 percent affirmation, youths won't be asking for too much by requesting other Nigerians to allow them 30 percent representation in the forthcoming conference, judging by their population size in the country.

Oh! so they considered the population size of Nigerian youths while making that ridiculous demand? It is really difficult to reconcile their knowledge of the population size of youths in the country with their demand for a mere 30 percent representation in the national dialogue that is afoot. If all they want is just to have a 30 percent representation for youths, why dissipate so much energy on what would have come anyway? It is totally of no use for them to assemble, have an obscure conference and then betray Nigerian youths by demanding a paltry 30 percent representation.

To boot, we may want to know who sent them on this errand. Yes, they should make us understand the mandate they have to speak for Nigerian youths. This is because the last time I checked, COYONAC is largely incognito to most youths they claim to now represent. It is probable that they didn't even bother to consult majority of young Nigerians before making this strange demand. Else, they would have realised that much are Nigerian youths who want to talk this country out of the woods.

Our youths are so hungary to talk to the extent that blogs have been made rampant just for them to vent. A visit to any of the political fora on social media further reveals how interested Nigerian youths are in talking our nation out of those things that have held it hamstrung. They may be football enthusiasts and music fanatics, but when it's about the fatherland, they need not give it much thought before expatiating on the way to go.

From the mostly unemployed free readers at news stands to the commercial motorcycle riders, a chat with them reveals that it isn't only senescent Nigerians that know the route to our greatness. As a result, there is no way 30 percent can go round. How will it go round when the people we are talking about constitute over 70 percent of our population? Two corps members I interacted with demanded nothing but 70 percent representation.

One of them, Austin Umaru, argued that just as a 70 year old should be accorded more prerogative than a man who is 50, so should a section of our populace that accounts for 70 percent of our entire population be allowed privileges commensurate with their number. To him, anything less flies in the face of fairness and amounts to injustice. I'm on the same page with Austen in this, even though I would rather be on the lower part of the page.

Youths in Nigeria will be right to demand the 70 percent representation that their size has naturally bestowed on them. In fact, by all accounts, 70 percent should be 'zoned' to them! However, for us to have an all-inclusive deliberation and tap from the wisdom of our grey hairs and others, 55 percent representation for our youths won't be too much a concession for Nigeria to allow. Neither, will it make reckless whatever outcome the national conference will trigger.

We, as nation, should discountenance those who go about demanding 30 percent representation for our youths. They may just be willing instruments used in flying a kite. Considering how mischievous our politicians can get, this request by the nebulous youths may have been calculated at eventually assigning 20 percent slot to youths. At that time, they would say: you requested for 30 and we gave you 20, why not appreciate our coming so close to what you asked for. After all, we have exceeded the half mark. We should know better so we don't play into their hands.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Student Matters, Mr. Jude Imagwe who was present at the conference said; “This is a challenge to young people, because the President has said the confab is for young people..." Isn't it ironic for the forthcoming conference to be for young people, yet the same young persons are opting to participate only to the tune of 30 percent?

That request inadvertently portrays our youths as undependable and not ready to take responsibility for our nation. It also shows that we really want the older generation to be very much around. For, when we give them seventy and keep thirty to ourselves, the message being sent is that we see ourselves as too young and naive to stand up for country. We would also be begging them not to retire when they should have- thus, allowing them to continue being leaders of today while we perpetually remain leaders of tomorrow.

The generality of Nigerians should incline their minds to reasons why the younger generation should be allowed to play a prominent role in the national confab that is fast approaching. The Convener of the conference, Comrade Wale Ajani told that the world was fast becoming a digital world, where old generation are no longer relevant in the scheme of things. This goes to show that we would be shutting ourselves out of the evolving world, if we allowed more men of the old order to decide our future.

There is no gain saying the fact that no other set of Nigerians have more stake in this country than the youths. This is as they promise to be very much around for a relatively longer period. As such, they should more altruistic in charting the way forward for Nigeria since they know that the country can't go under while they remain on top.

If they as a major part of the national dialogue support an outcome that will position Nigeria on the precipice, then will they tip over along with the nation into abyss when the chicken come home to roast. It wouldn't be a case of their children suffering what they supported during the course of the conference. Rather, they would share in the repercussion of whatever path of ignominy they choose to take during the conference.

Someone told me that this COYONAC people must be up to something. He reasoned that they may simply be positioning themselves to highjack for members of their group that which should be for the entire Nigerian youths. Their request for a conservative 30 percent may just be a ploy to warm their way into the hearts of the powers that be. Be that as it may, self-centredness is one vice we shouldn't tolerate in those who are to represent us in the national dialogue.

In as much as we would want to fault the demand of COYONAC, we can't deny the fact that they appear better organised and set for the national parley. They were right in complaining against the absence of youth representation in the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference. They equally meant well by mobilising to avert the recurrence of an oversight during the Obasanjo days, where a 60 year old man was chosen to represent the youths.

As such, other Nigerian youths should team up with COYONAC in this quest to have young Nigerians truly participate in deciding the future of the country. This may open their eyes to the need for them to expand the percentage of their demand for youth representation. But, if they refuse embracing other youths angling to join them or fail to increase their percentage demand for youth representation even after more youths must have joined, then shall we have every cause to question their motives.

Ugochukwu, a public affairs analyst can be followed on twitter @ugsylvester or reached through [email protected]

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Articles by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi